A Notorious Harlem Drug Lord Turned Witness Is Supposedly Out of Prison

Alberto “Alpo” Martinez before his arrest. Photo courtesy the author/F.E.D.S Magazine

The name Alberto “Alpo” Martinez tends to elicit strong reactions. Hes been celebrated as a street legendof epic proportionsan iconic figure out of hip-hop mythology who was played by the rapper Cam’ron in the movie Paid in Full. At the same time, Alpo is often reviled as a snitch, a rat of the highest order who allegedly betrayed the street code tosave himself, tarnishing his legacy in the chronicles of gangster lore.

One thing is for sure, though: Word of Alpo’s apparent release from alittle-known federal prison witness protection programthey’re called “cheese factories” on theinsideis resonating on the street. Don Diva magazine, probably the longest-running periodical devoted to the drug underworld and street life in New York City and beyond, reported that Alpo was released on its website last week.

Alpo was known as a trendsetter in crack-era Harlem, transporting hundreds of kilos of cocaine into Washington, DC, while flaunting his wealth and flamboyant lifestyle withcars, clothes and jewelry. But when he killed his best friend and business partner Rich Porteranother Harlem drug dealer whos beenimmortalized in hip-hop loreAlpo’s rep took a serious blow. When Alpo went on to testify against the man believed to be his former Washington, DC, enforcer in open courtapparently to spare himself a life sentencehe was branded a traitor.

To get the real deal on this infamous figure, VICE turned to another former Harlem drugdealer, Kevin Chiles. Chiles served over adecade in the feds for his own drug organization, founded Don Diva from the cell block, and was a contemporary of Alpos backin the 1980s. Back then, the crack epidemic was in full swing and young hustlers likeAlpo, Rich Porter, Azie and Kevin Chiles were making a name for themselves byperpetuating the lifestyle and fashions that rappers would go on to emulate.

Here’s what he had to say.

VICE: Now that we think he’s out of prison, do you suspect Alpo will comeback to New York? Harlem, even?
Kevin Chiles: I am most certain that Alpo wont comeback to New York. He knows he has a bullseye on him. That situation with Rich left Harlem scarredand people have strong feelings about it. And he admitted to playing a part inthe death of another with a well-liked figure, DomenicoBenson from Brooklyn. I could see a youngerdude, on the come-up, try to make a name for themselves by taking Alpo out.They would be instantly infamous. Im sure these are things he should beconsidering.

How did you learn Alpo was out?
Its beenspeculated that hes been home for years. But I know its truenow because he had been speaking to a mutual female associate of ours. In theconversations, Alpo was trying to fill in the blanks of years past and my namecame up. She seemed excited about speaking to him and she thought that I wouldshare her enthusiasm, but she sensed after talking to me that I wasnt…. I explained to her that I wasntchecking for him, but I didnt go into details about the specificsbecause she was outside the lines as far as that lifestyle was concerned.

You and Alpo were once friends right?
I was cool with all of themme,Rich, A, and Po. We would play basketball, gamble, compete over girls, swap cars;we did all those type of things on the regular. At any given time betweenme, Rich and Po, we may have had 15 to 20 luxury cars like Porsches, Benzs, BMWs. etc.If one of us pulled up in a car the other liked, we let him hold it.

What was Alpo like?
He brought attention to himself. Hewas charismatic and outgoing. He had a party always going on around him andpeople gravitated to him. What ultimately was unique about Alpo was that hewould go from uptown to downtown from the East side to the West side almostlike he was campaigning. He was an adrenaline junkie and he was crazy aboutthem bikes. Anybody that knows anything about Harlem, especially in the summertime, is that you have different groups that ride through Harlem doing trickson bikes and Alpo was one of those dudes that was notorious for that. Po wouldbe on a bike doing wheelies like 15, 20 blocks at a time.

What did you make of the film Paidin Full and how it represented Alpo, Rich, Azie and Harlem?
I dont thinkit captured the essence of what it was like being a twentysomething millionaire in Harlem. The influence and power was overwhelming. It made youfeel invincible. We were young and had a lawlessness about usyou felt like you owned the city. The musicand the fashion of the era just added to the allure.

What happened when Alpo killed RichPorter?
We originally didnt knowAlpo killed Rich. It was speculated but it wasnt untilhe did an interview and told on himself. But Richs death had a huge impact on Harlem. The timing couldnt havebeen worseRichard was in the middle ofnegotiating the release of his 12-year-old brother, Donnell, who had beenkidnapped and was being held for $500,000 ransom. Rich was killed, and then afew days later the body of his little brother was found in the same vicinity.

What do you think about snitching ingeneral?
We all signed on to live our livesoutside of the law. There’s a certain principle or mindset thatis put into play. For me and anybody of that mindset or lifestyle who choosesto live outside the law, theres a certain understanding: Its neverright in any instance to take your situation and then pass it on to somebodyelse to suffer the consequences of your actions. A man takes responsibility forhis actions.

What is up with Don Diva magazine forthose who arent hip?
We call ourselves an urban lifestyle magazine.It doesnt just encompass the gangster lifestyle we touch on all aspects of theurban existence. The magazine was created because I didnt wantto see people follow in my footsteps. I know this new generation is infatuatedwith what they think that the gangster lifestyle represents, but they have nounderstanding of the consequences and collateral damage it causes.

When I cameup with the idea for the magazine, I was probably at one of the lowest points ofmy life and wanted to be able to do something to affect change. One of the onlyupsides to being incarcerated in the federal prison system was that I was ableto meet other individuals of my stature from all over the country. We all hadour own experience with the legal system and the other consequences that comewith our lifestyle. I knew if I could tell the stories of individuals who arerespected in their communities like Larry Hoover from Chicago, Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory from Detroit, Akbar Pray from Newark, New Jersey, Guy Fisher fromHarlem Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff from Queens and The Chamber Brothers from Detroitjust to name a fewwe could help thisgeneration make better decisions.

These individuals and their stories serve asa cautionary tale. No one wants to end up dead or in jail for the rest of theirlife.

Follow Seth Ferranti on Twitter and check out his book on Alpo here.

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Posted by: Devens

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